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Driver Sought in Hit-and-Run in Crown Heights — Was It Intentional?

8:51 PM EST on January 8, 2023

The moment of impact in Crown Heights on Friday (with, inset, the number of crashes in the small neighborhood last year).

Police are seeking the heartless hit-and-run driver who flattened a pedestrian in Crown Heights on Friday night — a brutal, but rare, instance of road violence captured on camera that is now being investigated as a possible hate crime because the collision may have been intentional.

According to police, at around 5 p.m. on Friday night — just after the beginning of the religious period of Shabbos — a 55-year-old man was crossing Union Street at Albany Avenue when he was struck by the vehicle captured in the tweet above.

The driver fled as the victim was removed to Cobble Hill Health Center. Police did not provide his condition, but said the investigation remains ongoing.

Judging from the video, the car driver who struck the pedestrian not only failed to yield to the walker, but also ran a red light as he drove northbound on Albany Avenue. Seconds before the crash, a driver heading westbound on Union Street passed through what was a green light for him or her.

Given that detail, Yaacov Behrman, a spokesman for the Chabad Lubavich religious organization and a member of Community Board 9, posted that the "driver may have intentionally driven into the victim."

"We simply don’t know yet for certain either way," he added.

A tiny part of Brooklyn ... with a lot of crashes. Photo: Crashmapper
A tiny part of Brooklyn ... with a lot of crashes. Photo: Crashmapper
A tiny part of Brooklyn ... with a lot of crashes. Photo: Crashmapper

Another man, Adam Berkowitz, commented that the driver was so negligent that it could only have been intentional.

"This looks to be intentional unfortunately because he made a wide turn," Berkowitz posted. "If he had made a normal turn he would not have hit him. Also, looks to have run a red light."

The Jewish Voice reported that the NYPD is investigating the crash as a possible bias crime — a report the NYPD confirmed to Streetsblog late on Sunday night.

The neighborhood's private police force, Shomrim, identified the car on Twitter as a silver Mercedes with the plate KPS-1226. The car associated with that plate has incurred 104 total violations since August 2021, according to city statistics, including 79 speed camera tickets and six red-light tickets — with 71 of those speeding tickets coming in 2022. The driver has already been flagged twice in 2023. So many tickets have yet to be paid that the car is blocked in the city's online payment system, meaning that the driver must appear in person.

Of course, crashes between car drivers and pedestrians is endemic in New York, and Crown Heights is certainly not immune. In 2022, the tiny confines of Community Board 9 experienced 1,225 reported crashes or more than three per day (see map), according to city statistics. Those crashes injured 87 cyclists, 119 pedestrians and 427 motorists, or nearly two people injured every day. Two pedestrians were killed.

Because of the weekly rest period of Shabbos begins with traditional religious services on Friday nights, Crown Heights streets are often filled with pedestrians at sunset, just the moment when many drivers are rushing. In 2022, of the 119 pedestrians injured, 20 came on Fridays, according to city data, slightly above the average.

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